IN THE SPACE of a week, Ulster have been able to secure both of their front line scrum halves to new three-year contracts.
Today, Paul Marshall has committed to stay with his home province beyond his 30th birthday by signing the extension to his current contract which would have run out next summer.
The news comes after Springbok Ruan Pienaar was signed up for the same period despite strong links with a lucrative move to play in the Top 14.
With both men in place until 2017 and out-half Paddy Jackson still on 21, the core of the northern province’s back-line looks likely to enjoy some continuity in the coming years.
“When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was to play rugby for Ulster,” Marshall said in a statement released by the province today.
“I have been fortunate over the past seven years to do just that and I am extremely pleased to know that I will be representing my Province for at least another three years.
“To be able to play in front of friends and family is very special. I am passionate about playing for Ulster and I love what it represents. With the squad that we have at the present time and the redevelopment that is going on at the ground – Ravenhill is an exciting place to be.”
Marshall has been an impressive part of the Ulster side as it challenges at top level of European competition in recent years. However, the academy product has had to be content with an impact role off the bench as the province placed the fortunes of the team into the hands of Pienaar.
David Humphreys, director of rugby at Ravenhill, said: !To compete in the knock-out stages of both the Heineken Cup and the RaboDirect Pro12, we need depth in all positions throughout the playing squad and retaining another international scrum-half is an important part of achieving that.”
Marshall started Friday’s Heineken Cup win over Leicester Tigers before being replaced by the Springbok making his first appearance since returning from international duty.
Last season (as Ulster claimed their first ever win in France) Pienaar was switched to out-half and played in tandem with Marshall against Castres. The experiment did not go altogether smoothly however, and Jackson was summoned from the bench to steady the ship.